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Home Affairs publishes final White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection


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Home Affairs publishes final White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection

Image of Aaron Motsoaledi
Photo by GovtZA
Minister of Home Affairs Dr Aaron Motsoaledi

17th April 2024

By: Thabi Shomolekae
Creamer Media Senior Writer


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Minister of Home Affairs Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Wednesday the publication of the final White Paper On Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection: Towards a Complete Overhaul of the Migration System in South Africa.

Motsoaledi was briefing the media on the publication and explained that the final White Paper was a product of robust engagements.


Last week Cabinet passed the paper after public comments.

In November, the department published the White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection for public comment.


Written submissions were meant to reach the Department of Home Affairs on or before January 31.

Motsoaledi explained that public hearings were conducted in all nine provinces, highlighting that the outcome of the engagements and public comments was that the policy position adopted in the White Paper enjoyed wide support.

He noted that only a handful of public interest groups were opposed to selected policy positions, such as the withdrawal from the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol – United Nations protocols, and acceding to them with reservations, or the proposed repeal of Section 4.3 of the South African Citizenship Act.

“…and the first safe country principle. These are the things that people objected to,” he explained.

He said the department carefully considered all the oral and written submissions and highlighted that public comments on the paper reaffirmed an urgent need to adopt effective policy measures and legislative interventions dealing with migration in the country.

He said that South Africa had different pieces of legislation dealing with citizenship, migration and refugee protection, noting Citizenship Act which was passed in 1995, the Immigration Act passed in 2002 and the Refugee Act passed in 1998.

Motsoaledi noted that the paper proposed that government must review or withdraw from the 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol with a view to accede to them with reservation, as many other countries did.

He explained that government only intended to exercise its rights granted in Article 42 of the 1951 convention and article 7 of the 1967 protocol, and make reservations accordingly.

He previously said South Africa had to correct its “mistake” when it adopted the UN protocols without reservations in place. Those opposed to the move warned that this could mean migrants would be stripped of certain rights.

Motsoaledi said the refugee protection and immigration legislation must provide for reservations and exceptions as contained in the 1951 convention and 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

“…particularly in that South Africa does not have the resources to grant all the socioeconomic rights envisaged in the 1951 convention. Remember these rights were developed for all the countries – rich and poor – and there will be those countries which will find there won’t be a problem, but others will,” he said.


He said the Citizenship Act and Birth and Deaths Registration Act must be repealed in their entirety and be included in the single legislation dealing with Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection.

He highlighted that this would remove the contradictions and loopholes of the past on citizenship, as was now the case with the three pieces of legislation.

He added that the criteria for granting any form of citizenship must be strictly in accordance with the law, noting that a proper register must be kept with persons granted citizenship by naturalisation.

He explained that the register must be tabled yearly in Parliament, by the Minister.

Meanwhile, he said South Africa was a great place to live, and added that many people aspired to live, work or be citizens of South Africa.

He said sometimes the media found it difficult to understand that no one could account for undocumented migrants.

“…because a person who has entered illegally in your country and does not go to announce themselves to authorities as provided for, will remain unknown to authorities until that person is met by immigration offices or law enforcement,” he said.

He admitted that the department had no idea as to how many illegal immigrants were in the country, however, he could relay that immigration services deported between 15 000 and 20 000 illegal foreigners every year, at a huge cost.


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